Hiking in the Amazon

We readied ourselves in our rubber boots and life jackets once again and loaded into canoes. We set out to hike in the Amazon. I must be honest, this is what the entire trip was about to me. Despite the stifling heat, the breeze from moving up the river in the motorized canoe 17308782_10210349316102390_2971485119377380513_nfelt fantastic. We arrived at the Misicocha Private Natural Reserve. The government closely monitors it’s protected lands, so we had to have approval to hike.

We met under a hut at the top of a hill where there were giant spiders building elaborate webs for us. Several people grabbed walking sticks and we set out. We walked through the rainforest observing many species of trees (including my new favorite tree the walking pines), wild flowers, termite nests the size of cars, and various insects. 17361542_10210366819699969_4018232383304316734_n

We came to a gorge that had a suspension bridge strung across. Before I knew what was even happening my son took off across it. He is fearless. I set out after him when he was over halfway. The bridge bounces so much that only one person can be on it at one time. It was a little intimidating.

We continued to climb in elevation, trudging through mud and watching for insects and spiders. We stopped to try some ants that our guide told us tasted like lemon. I popped a s17362792_10211715205546021_7247668252483515258_nmall ant into my mouth. I couldn’t feel the ant, but had a sudden small burst of lemon flavor. I was relieved I couldn’t feel the ants little legs crawling.

We came to a larger gorge that had to be crossed by a basket chair on a zipline. Of course my fearless son was the first to volunteer to go across. Our guide sat him in the chair and u17308735_10210349315422373_6419910977450234425_nsed his walking stick to

place between the bars to keep him in. I can say I was more than a little nervous. Once again I followed him over to the other side. The ride was so fast it was over before I knew it.

About an hour and a half into our hike we reached our destination. We came upon an ancient kapok tree. It is believed to be 400 years old. At approximately 150 feet tall, it would have taken 20 people hand in hand to wrap around the tree it was so large. This is considered an sacred tree by the locals. I couldn’t even begin to take a picture what would clearly show17342841_10210350716537400_7770539619706682147_n how large this tree is. It was absolutely magnificent. It had massive vines hanging from so far above we could not see the starting point. My son decided to connect with his inner monkey and climbed the vines. I’m sure he felt like tarzan as he swung from the vines. I will admit, I was a little bit envious.

17342494_10210366732337785_4995779267363556636_n

 

After I laid my hands on the tree and honored it’s age and wisdom, we hiked back towards our rafts. Our clothes were thoroughly soaked through with sweat. I stopped to spray myself with bug spray at least twice in an effort to keep the various insects off of me. I felt like I was sweating it off as fast as I was applying it.

Back at the water we boarded balsa rafts. They were modeled after the rafts made by natives. We took off our boots and anything that wasn’t waterproof. We left them in a canoe with a few souls who weren’t quite as brave. Sitting on the raft, I was instantly wet. The water was cold and very silty. The water sloshed up through the individual logs. We pushed out into the current and began to float down stream. I was the first to jump. The water felt 17424849_10211715170265139_7830998117733676427_nexhilarating. The shock of cold after such a hot and humid hike took my breath. It quickly became comfortable and I held out my arms as my son jumped.

We held onto the raft letting our life jackets keep us afloat. I had asked previous to boarding the raft if I needed to worry about any of the weird parasites you see on those freaky medical shows called terrifying names like ‘Monsters Inside Us’. I was reassured that the urethra seeking parasites were further south, along with piranhas and other potential threats.

We were greeted back at the lodge with a fresh sampling of17264253_10210343014464853_7687460539118863904_n grilled food. Just like the locals, our food had been cooked inside of palm leaves. I was given a sampling of fresh trout, grub worms, and palm. Even though I was hesitant, I decided this would probably be my only opportunity (or half desire) to try the grubs. My son and I decided to do it together. We both popped a grub in our mouths. Surprisingly it tasted like bacon. I wasn’t able to eat the entire thing because I was expecting it to be crunchy (and to spare you further detail) it was not. I was told by others that the head was quite crunchy but I had purposely avoided that part.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Drinking chicha with the natives

Karl and I got up at sunrise and snuck out into the thermal pools outside our room for a soak before everyone else was up. The steam rose off the pools , the sun came up behind the nearby volcano, and I sat drinking my coffee and took it all in. It was a perfect morning. We agreed17309548_10210334916422407_8751021778529238267_n that this is a place we could definitely come back to.

After breakfast, we loaded a bus and drove towards the Amazon basin.  We stopped in a small village to see the wild monkeys. They come into town on days the locals set up market in hopes to find food. We were warned the monkeys can get a little aggressive (they steal stuff) so we needed to take off hats, sunglasses, or anything shiny or colorful.
IMG_0149After a short walk across a very sketchy bridge (that I thought was a pedestrian bridge and turned out to be also for traffic), we made our way to a bunch of trees on a beach right by the market. The monkeys were playing and jumping from tree to tree. On occasion one would jump down and try to take something from someone’s neck or head that hadn’t listened to the instructions of taking these things off. They were a lot of fun to watch.

We eventually loaded back up on the bus and headed to the Amazon Basin. The lower altitude was a little bit of a relief. We made it to a place called La Punta Ahuano on the Napo River (a tributary to the Amazon River). It was pouring rain when we arrived. There was a small shelter that we all crowded under waiting for it to let up a bit before we loaded into motorized canoe to go across the river. Eventually we decided that we are in the rainforest and rain is a part of every day, so climbed onto the boats.

17362435_10211734758594835_6811658986573402061_nThe heat and humidity were intense so the breeze from going upstream felt great. The current was so strong that our boat didn’t go straight against it. We zig zagged back and forth. About 10 minutes later we arrived at Casa del Suizo, our resort set up on a hill overlooking the Amazon Basin. Yet again, I was blown away by our accommodations.

We had to climb a lot of stairs to get up to the resort from the boat. We entered next to a pool surrounded by little hu17342618_10210343014744860_389843342584525691_nts, palm trees, a bar, and an outdoor dining area. We were shown to our rooms, which were just as impressive. It was surrounded by so many exotic plants and flowers. Our balcony had a hammock that Lil’ Man and I instantly took advantage of. It overlooked a courtyard full of more gorgeous trees and flowers.

IMG_0195.JPGOnce settling in a bit, we marinated ourselves in bug spray (even though I hate it, it’s better than all the bad things you can get from a bug bite in the Amazon). We headed out for a visit to a local Quechua family in Ahuano, also called Anaconda Lodge.

img_0233.pngWe were fitted with rubber boots and loaded back into the canoes. We went to an island called Anaconda by the locals. We hiked across a muddy wet area that is often underwater. We continued our hike for about 15 minutes through high grasses and trees. Our boots sucked into the squishy mud and sweat poured down every inch of our bodies. I kept a looIMG_0138k out for any strange snakes or insects. The most interesting thing I spotted was a giant black mass on a tree. At closer look, it was a large grouping of catepillars. I have never seen anything like it.
Eventually we walked into a clearin17155347_10210350718497449_677940779364879196_ng and saw huts on stilts. We had arrived. We climbed the stairs into the hut and found a seat next to a burning fire pit. The heat was already stifling and my clothes were soaked. A barefoot woman sat on the edge of the pit.

Our guide explained that the hut was on stilts because once a year the entire area floods about 5 feet high. The fire is left burning all of the time because the smoke keeps the bugs away. It is women’s work, and they get up at 3 a.m. to start stoking the fire and making breakfast.

The woman sat in the middle of the room with yucca root and sweet potato on a board. She began to mash it to demonstrate how to make chicha, the local alcohol drink offered to guests. We were told, as she was mashing, that this 17308856_10210343037545430_1481689716924246743_n.jpgalcohol was originally created by the maker chewing the root and spitting the saliva into a bowl. This would cause the solution to ferment and eventually turn into alcohol. In the past few years, they learned that if the person making the brew was sick, everyone the drink is given too also fell sick. She then used bark of walking pine to grate sweet potato into the brew to be the fermenting agent.

Once she finished the demonstration, she passed a bowl of 10 day old chicha around for us each to drink out of. I was very happy this was no longer a saliva based solution. I was proud of Lil’ Man for trying it, too. As soon as I tasted it, it reminded me of the intense smell my moms homemade bread use to have while it was rising. It was bitter and I couldn’t have drank more than a sip.

17155566_10210343036985416_2189276111118603188_nAfter our chicha sampling, we went back to the ground where we got a demonstration on blowing darts. We were each given an opportunity to try. Lil’ Man was set on getting a blow dart set until he realized that the ones for sale were just replicas. It didn’t discourage him from trying to shoot the target several times. The blow dart gun was about 5 times bigger than him.

17265039_10210343036945415_2069432589634500631_n

 

 

 

 

We finished the day up with hiking back to the canoes and returning to our resort. A shower was required to wash all of the sweat and bug spray off. We were told that bug spray wasn’t required in the resort because ginger was strategically planted. I had no idea that ginger kept the mosquitos away.

17342789_10210343014144845_7067345633814410548_n

We spent the rest of the afternoon watching Lil’ Man play in the swimming pool with a new friend. Bats swarmed overhead and the kids seemed completely oblivious to it. I had a cocktail and sat under the ceiling fan in the hut enjoying the amazing view and feeling completely blessed.

17190757_10210366733057803_5033613772203423278_n